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Critiquing Impressions of Feminine Storytelling: In Defense of Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas
Part One: Feminine Media & A Girls’ Comics World

This article is part one of a two-part series reviewing the reception to the English translation of Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas and its English-language reviews in Western comics culture. Part One of this series concerns the cross-cultural influences of Japan’s shoujo industry, while Part 2 discusses reviews to the  Heart of Thomas translation and what this reception reflects as a barrier to a Western girls’ comics industry.


While Moto Hagio’s classic shoujo manga (girls’ comic) The Heart of Thomas was released originally in Japan in 1974 and has long been heralded a classic shoujo story, the English-language translation, released on January 2nd of 2013, drew criticism from popular reviewers for the very stylistic and narrative elements that drew Thomas’ original audience of Japanese girls and women and lack insight and context into the depths of the story that Hagio built. The very issues that reviewers critiqued Thomas for, namely, the dramatic plots, the delicate, overtly feminine visual touches, and the complex mechanisms of gender within the story, are all cornerstones of shoujo storytelling and are all very obviously coded as feminine storytelling elements. While Thomas depicts male characters, Hagio codes femininity into every element of the story, with every effort towards drawing in her assumedly female audience.


Thomas’ translation occupies a unique space in English-language comics as a beloved, popular work created by a woman for an explicitly female audience. The western-comics popular culture sphere has been crowded by male creators and stories for so long that a work as explicitly feminine as Thomas struggles to find a wide readership in English-language comics, as readers lack the tools to conceptualize such a feminine work. However, reception to Thomas illustrates the ways the explicitly feminine is undervalued and unappreciated in the mainstream Western comics world. By examining Thomas and its English-language reviews alongside literary and cultural motivations for Hagio’s storytelling styles, we can not only trace the greater significance of this landmark story, but we can also understand the barriers to bringing explicitly feminine comics to the mainstream comics world.


What is feminine media and why does it matter in respect to comics?


For the purposes of this essay, I will borrow from Sue Thornham’s description of media oriented towards women and define feminine media as “mainstream narratives which claim to speak to and about women, to inhabit a ‘women’s world’ and to offer positions of identification for their female consumers….across a number of media forms.” While femininity is a varied identity and experienced differently from individual to individual, “feminine” media is that which is obviously visually and stylistically geared towards women and girls. While gender is a purely constructed identity, women’s acceptance or preferences for overtly “feminine” media is not a biological result of their gender, but, as Lana Rakow explains in Rethinking Gender Research in Communication, due to “our gender system, which locates some people as women in a particular organization of social life, making that location appear natural and the result of biology and psychology rather than culture and politics.”



 

Not all women enjoy or consume this targeted feminine media, and outlets such as women’s magazines, romance novels, and soap operas face considerable criticism from feminist media scholars for their emphasis on consumerism, their reinforcement of traditional gender roles, their heterosexism and their racism. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf writes that triggered advertising in women’s magazines keeps women “in the self-hating, ever-failing, hungry, and sexually insecure state of being aspiring ‘beauties.’” Contemporary analysis of “empowering” girl-oriented magazines finds that even when their emphasis on beauty remains about self-expression in healthy ways, “girls’ agency is often presented as explicitly tied to buying things with the promise that these goods will give them social power and independence.” Romance novels, an especially gendered genre of fiction, face considerable criticism for promoting conservative and outdated views on women in the world.



However, as Thornham writes, they also provide “pleasures of self-recognition, of finding women placed centre-stage in a ‘woman’s genre,’ of participation in a shared women’s culture.” Such fiction empowers readers through independence and identification. Similarly, soap opera, another female-targeted genre,  “provides space for the creation and expression of a specific women’s culture, constructed in the spaces between, but also in opposition to, dominant or official culture.” Media created for women specifically has a reputation for having little aesthetic or intellectual value. In her discussion about soap operas, Thornham writes, “like in romance fiction, [soap operas are] regarded as trash by the dominant value system. Its fans, however, choose it in defiance of these values—as their cultural capital, and in doing so, constitute themselves as a site of opposition to dominant and official culture.” Even Wolf, in her criticism of women’s magazines, acknowledges that they have the power to bring feminist messages to ordinary women who may not be steeped in academic feminism. She states that “women’s media are the only products of popular culture that…change with women’s reality, are mostly written by women for women about women’s issues, and take women’s concerns seriously.” Women’s media provides a space for women to tell their own stories and voice their own desires in their own voices.




The lack of a visible women’s culture in mainstream comics misses an opportunity to draw a large female readership to our medium. While comics created specifically for girls in the early period of the medium’s history tried to reflect the desires and fantasies of young women, as time went by, mainstream comics presented a dominant ideology that reinforced stereotypes about women told by men. As romance comics dwindled in the 1970s, publishers told stories that, “no matter how well-drawn, read as though they were written by clueless forty-five-year-old-men—which they were.” While the bold underground wimmin’s comix creators told overtly feminist stories, a lack of mainstream stories told in the sequential form targeted towards young women and girls led to the incredibly gendered medium we know today.





The popularity of manga, and of shoujo titles in particular, amongst young people in the late 90s and early 2000s inspired many young artists who may not have been interested in the dominant comics culture to start writing and drawing within the medium. While comics like Womanthology, the revolutionary crowd-funded comics project that drew over $105,000 dollars to produce an anthology of female-created works, help galvanize a base of female creators, they are still the outlier. In fact, in a reader survey that accompanied the launch of DC’s New 52, a reboot of their comics continuity, only 7% of readers identified themselves as female. In 2012, the highest selling comic distributed by Diamond, the main publisher to all comic book stores, that was created by a women for a specifically female audience was the new reprinting of volume three of Kondansha’s shoujo Sailor Moon series as the 145th bestselling graphic novel of the year (by contrast, in 2011, the first volume of Kodansha’s Sailor Moon rerelease ranked 91st for its year). Fortunately, on Amazon, a number of English-language comics created by women for girls rank between the 40s-50s on Amazon’s list of bestselling comics, though the lack of visibility or promotional news about these titles is still a problem. While comics created with both genders in mind have risen in recent years, and while many if not most comics by independent publishers like Oni, Fantagraphics, and Top Shelf create works that take both genders in mind, few comics created for a specifically female audience, let alone an audience of young girls, exist in Western comics. The influence of shoujo and manga in general has in turn shaped the western comics world. Renowned contemporary American and Canadian comics and cartoon artists draw inspiration from shoujo titles. Brian Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, and Adventure Time artist Natasha Allegri all cite shoujo series Sailor Moon as an influence on their art. Other creators, like Josh Tierney, the writer behind Archaia Press’ Spera, or Faith Erin Hicks of Friends with Boys, have cited other shoujo series’ as influences on their love of comics.



Shoujo stories have the advantage of a large, female-driven comics industry backed by the most powerful publishing companies in Japan, where deciphering the interests and desires of girls shapes the entire industry. Publishers, editors, and artists rely on the concept of ningen kankei (human relations) to construct comics for young women. Ningen kankei, as defined by Jennifer Prough in Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shoujo Manga, is concerned with “person-to-person association or interaction with society” as well as “Relations between individuals including correspondence of emotions.” These relationships not only shape characters within girls’ stories, but also “holds fast the structures of economics, relativity, authenticity, and ideology within the shoujo manga industry.” These definitions rely on gendered assumptions about what women want, but they also are a powerful tool for introducing young women to comics. In 2008, the Mainichi Newspaper in Japan conducted a survey about reading practices, and of the 4800 men and women polled, 47% of late teenage women reported reading manga magazines, with 42% of women in their twenties reporting in. Seventy-three percent (73%) of teenaged women reported reading at least one manga book per month, while 53% of women in their twenties reported reading manga. Shoujo stories, once drawn by men and concerned with romance and perpetuating a male-formed feminine ideal, shifted thanks to a group of revolutionary group that decided to reclaim girls’ comics. These creators in turn inspired a host of creators that expanded the genre’s popularity both in Japan and abroad. Hagio, a member of this group, is inextricably tied to the popularity of shoujo in her role as an iconic visionary in girl’s comics.


Hagio and the Year 24 Group
The English translation boys’ love comic The Heart of Thomas was released by indie comics publisher Fantagraphics on January 2, 2013 after months of delays. Heart of Thomas follows Fantagraphics’ 2010 release of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, a collection compiling several of Hagio’s other notable short works. Hagio heralds from a group informally known as the Year 24 Group, one of the most successful movements of women in comics the world has ever seen. The Year 24 Group, or, to some, the Magnificent 49ers, were a group of Japanese female shoujo artists born on or around 1949 (or, the 24th year of the Showa period in Japan). The Year 24 Group included such artists as Keiko Takemiya, Moto Hagio, Riyoko Ikeda, Yasuko Aoike, and a handful or two of other female artists. Hagio and Takemiya were roommates, and many of the other creators in the group would go to their apartment to work and collaborate. At the time they were working, girl’s comics followed a lot of the same conventions as they did in the US—most were romantic, and nearly all of them were written by men and enforced severe gender roles. The women of the Year 24 Group wanted to write comics for women by women, and pioneered many of the shoujo manga conventions that are commonplace now. The creators within the group explored genres as diverse as science fiction, fantasy, romance, slice-of-life, mystery, and action comics, all aimed at capturing the imaginations of young women. The works they created, like Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles, or Hagio’s Heart of Thomas all influenced all of the manga that would come later. They infused the shoujo manga genre with a real concern for the inner lives of women and girls, as perceived by real women and girls. They also paved the way for later female creators like Rumiko Takahashi, (Inu Yasha, Ranma ½), the ladies of CLAMP (Card Captor Sakura, Chobits, X1999), or Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), among others.


Works Cited:
Thornham, Sue, “Narrating Femininity.” Women, Feminism and Media. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. 55-83
Wolf, Naomi: From The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women: NY: Doubleday, 1991. Pp 58-85
Keller, Jessalynn. “Feminist Editors and the New Girl Glossies: Fashionable Feminism or Just Another Sexist Rag?” Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011) I-12.
Rakow, Lana F. “Rethinking Gender Research in Communication,” Journal of Communication, 36, no. 4 (August 1986), 11-26.
Wolf, Naomi: From The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women: NY: Doubleday, 1991. Pp 58-85
Keller, Jessalynn. “Feminist Editors and the New Girl Glossies: Fashionable Feminism or Just Another Sexist Rag?” Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011) I-12.
Rakow, Lana F. “Rethinking Gender Research in Communication,” Journal of Communication, 36, no. 4 (August 1986), 11-26.
Prough, Jennifer. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.
Robbins, Trina. From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines. 1999. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
 
Web Citations
 
Fantagraphics’ Heart of Thomas Release Information
Womanthology Sales
2012 Sailor Moon Sales via Diamond
2011 Sailor Moon Sales via Diamond
Amazon Comics Sales
New 52 Survey Results
Mainichi Newspaper survey results
Bryan Lee O’Malley Sailor Moon Fanart
Hope Larson Sailor Moon Fanart
Faith Erin Hicks Shoujo Influences
  

Critiquing Impressions of Feminine Storytelling: In Defense of Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas

Part One: Feminine Media & A Girls’ Comics World



This article is part one of a two-part series reviewing the reception to the English translation of Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas and its English-language reviews in Western comics culture. Part One of this series concerns the cross-cultural influences of Japan’s shoujo industry, while Part 2 discusses reviews to the  Heart of Thomas translation and what this reception reflects as a barrier to a Western girls’ comics industry.



While Moto Hagio’s classic shoujo manga (girls’ comic) The Heart of Thomas was released originally in Japan in 1974 and has long been heralded a classic shoujo story, the English-language translation, released on January 2nd of 2013, drew criticism from popular reviewers for the very stylistic and narrative elements that drew Thomas’ original audience of Japanese girls and women and lack insight and context into the depths of the story that Hagio built. The very issues that reviewers critiqued Thomas for, namely, the dramatic plots, the delicate, overtly feminine visual touches, and the complex mechanisms of gender within the story, are all cornerstones of shoujo storytelling and are all very obviously coded as feminine storytelling elements. While Thomas depicts male characters, Hagio codes femininity into every element of the story, with every effort towards drawing in her assumedly female audience.



Thomas’ translation occupies a unique space in English-language comics as a beloved, popular work created by a woman for an explicitly female audience. The western-comics popular culture sphere has been crowded by male creators and stories for so long that a work as explicitly feminine as Thomas struggles to find a wide readership in English-language comics, as readers lack the tools to conceptualize such a feminine work. However, reception to Thomas illustrates the ways the explicitly feminine is undervalued and unappreciated in the mainstream Western comics world. By examining Thomas and its English-language reviews alongside literary and cultural motivations for Hagio’s storytelling styles, we can not only trace the greater significance of this landmark story, but we can also understand the barriers to bringing explicitly feminine comics to the mainstream comics world.



What is feminine media and why does it matter in respect to comics?



For the purposes of this essay, I will borrow from Sue Thornham’s description of media oriented towards women and define feminine media as “mainstream narratives which claim to speak to and about women, to inhabit a ‘women’s world’ and to offer positions of identification for their female consumers….across a number of media forms.” While femininity is a varied identity and experienced differently from individual to individual, “feminine” media is that which is obviously visually and stylistically geared towards women and girls. While gender is a purely constructed identity, women’s acceptance or preferences for overtly “feminine” media is not a biological result of their gender, but, as Lana Rakow explains in Rethinking Gender Research in Communication, due to “our gender system, which locates some people as women in a particular organization of social life, making that location appear natural and the result of biology and psychology rather than culture and politics.”



Sassy Magazine

Don't pretend you don't know what this is. 



Not all women enjoy or consume this targeted feminine media, and outlets such as women’s magazines, romance novels, and soap operas face considerable criticism from feminist media scholars for their emphasis on consumerism, their reinforcement of traditional gender roles, their heterosexism and their racism. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf writes that triggered advertising in women’s magazines keeps women “in the self-hating, ever-failing, hungry, and sexually insecure state of being aspiring ‘beauties.’” Contemporary analysis of “empowering” girl-oriented magazines finds that even when their emphasis on beauty remains about self-expression in healthy ways, “girls’ agency is often presented as explicitly tied to buying things with the promise that these goods will give them social power and independence.” Romance novels, an especially gendered genre of fiction, face considerable criticism for promoting conservative and outdated views on women in the world.



A confrontation between Edward and Bella



However, as Thornham writes, they also provide “pleasures of self-recognition, of finding women placed centre-stage in a ‘woman’s genre,’ of participation in a shared women’s culture.” Such fiction empowers readers through independence and identification. Similarly, soap opera, another female-targeted genre,  “provides space for the creation and expression of a specific women’s culture, constructed in the spaces between, but also in opposition to, dominant or official culture.” Media created for women specifically has a reputation for having little aesthetic or intellectual value. In her discussion about soap operas, Thornham writes, “like in romance fiction, [soap operas are] regarded as trash by the dominant value system. Its fans, however, choose it in defiance of these values—as their cultural capital, and in doing so, constitute themselves as a site of opposition to dominant and official culture.” Even Wolf, in her criticism of women’s magazines, acknowledges that they have the power to bring feminist messages to ordinary women who may not be steeped in academic feminism. She states that “women’s media are the only products of popular culture that…change with women’s reality, are mostly written by women for women about women’s issues, and take women’s concerns seriously.” Women’s media provides a space for women to tell their own stories and voice their own desires in their own voices.



Rory and Lorelei from Gilmore Girls



The lack of a visible women’s culture in mainstream comics misses an opportunity to draw a large female readership to our medium. While comics created specifically for girls in the early period of the medium’s history tried to reflect the desires and fantasies of young women, as time went by, mainstream comics presented a dominant ideology that reinforced stereotypes about women told by men. As romance comics dwindled in the 1970s, publishers told stories that, “no matter how well-drawn, read as though they were written by clueless forty-five-year-old-men—which they were.” While the bold underground wimmin’s comix creators told overtly feminist stories, a lack of mainstream stories told in the sequential form targeted towards young women and girls led to the incredibly gendered medium we know today.



It was too perfect not to use it again.



The popularity of manga, and of shoujo titles in particular, amongst young people in the late 90s and early 2000s inspired many young artists who may not have been interested in the dominant comics culture to start writing and drawing within the medium. While comics like Womanthology, the revolutionary crowd-funded comics project that drew over $105,000 dollars to produce an anthology of female-created works, help galvanize a base of female creators, they are still the outlier. In fact, in a reader survey that accompanied the launch of DC’s New 52, a reboot of their comics continuity, only 7% of readers identified themselves as female. In 2012, the highest selling comic distributed by Diamond, the main publisher to all comic book stores, that was created by a women for a specifically female audience was the new reprinting of volume three of Kondansha’s shoujo Sailor Moon series as the 145th bestselling graphic novel of the year (by contrast, in 2011, the first volume of Kodansha’s Sailor Moon rerelease ranked 91st for its year). Fortunately, on Amazon, a number of English-language comics created by women for girls rank between the 40s-50s on Amazon’s list of bestselling comics, though the lack of visibility or promotional news about these titles is still a problem. While comics created with both genders in mind have risen in recent years, and while many if not most comics by independent publishers like Oni, Fantagraphics, and Top Shelf create works that take both genders in mind, few comics created for a specifically female audience, let alone an audience of young girls, exist in Western comics. The influence of shoujo and manga in general has in turn shaped the western comics world. Renowned contemporary American and Canadian comics and cartoon artists draw inspiration from shoujo titles. Brian Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, and Adventure Time artist Natasha Allegri all cite shoujo series Sailor Moon as an influence on their art. Other creators, like Josh Tierney, the writer behind Archaia Press’ Spera, or Faith Erin Hicks of Friends with Boys, have cited other shoujo series’ as influences on their love of comics.



Fiona from Adventure Time as Princess Serenity from Sailor Moon.



Shoujo stories have the advantage of a large, female-driven comics industry backed by the most powerful publishing companies in Japan, where deciphering the interests and desires of girls shapes the entire industry. Publishers, editors, and artists rely on the concept of ningen kankei (human relations) to construct comics for young women. Ningen kankei, as defined by Jennifer Prough in Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shoujo Manga, is concerned with “person-to-person association or interaction with society” as well as “Relations between individuals including correspondence of emotions.” These relationships not only shape characters within girls’ stories, but also “holds fast the structures of economics, relativity, authenticity, and ideology within the shoujo manga industry.” These definitions rely on gendered assumptions about what women want, but they also are a powerful tool for introducing young women to comics. In 2008, the Mainichi Newspaper in Japan conducted a survey about reading practices, and of the 4800 men and women polled, 47% of late teenage women reported reading manga magazines, with 42% of women in their twenties reporting in. Seventy-three percent (73%) of teenaged women reported reading at least one manga book per month, while 53% of women in their twenties reported reading manga. Shoujo stories, once drawn by men and concerned with romance and perpetuating a male-formed feminine ideal, shifted thanks to a group of revolutionary group that decided to reclaim girls’ comics. These creators in turn inspired a host of creators that expanded the genre’s popularity both in Japan and abroad. Hagio, a member of this group, is inextricably tied to the popularity of shoujo in her role as an iconic visionary in girl’s comics.



Hagio and the Year 24 Group

The English translation boys’ love comic The Heart of Thomas was released by indie comics publisher Fantagraphics on January 2, 2013 after months of delays. Heart of Thomas follows Fantagraphics’ 2010 release of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, a collection compiling several of Hagio’s other notable short works. Hagio heralds from a group informally known as the Year 24 Group, one of the most successful movements of women in comics the world has ever seen. The Year 24 Group, or, to some, the Magnificent 49ers, were a group of Japanese female shoujo artists born on or around 1949 (or, the 24th year of the Showa period in Japan). The Year 24 Group included such artists as Keiko Takemiya, Moto Hagio, Riyoko Ikeda, Yasuko Aoike, and a handful or two of other female artists. Hagio and Takemiya were roommates, and many of the other creators in the group would go to their apartment to work and collaborate. At the time they were working, girl’s comics followed a lot of the same conventions as they did in the US—most were romantic, and nearly all of them were written by men and enforced severe gender roles. The women of the Year 24 Group wanted to write comics for women by women, and pioneered many of the shoujo manga conventions that are commonplace now. The creators within the group explored genres as diverse as science fiction, fantasy, romance, slice-of-life, mystery, and action comics, all aimed at capturing the imaginations of young women. The works they created, like Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles, or Hagio’s Heart of Thomas all influenced all of the manga that would come later. They infused the shoujo manga genre with a real concern for the inner lives of women and girls, as perceived by real women and girls. They also paved the way for later female creators like Rumiko Takahashi, (Inu Yasha, Ranma ½), the ladies of CLAMP (Card Captor Sakura, Chobits, X1999), or Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), among others.



Works Cited:

Thornham, Sue, “Narrating Femininity.” Women, Feminism and Media. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. 55-83

Wolf, Naomi: From The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women: NY: Doubleday, 1991. Pp 58-85

Keller, Jessalynn. “Feminist Editors and the New Girl Glossies: Fashionable Feminism or Just Another Sexist Rag?” Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011) I-12.

Rakow, Lana F. “Rethinking Gender Research in Communication,” Journal of Communication, 36, no. 4 (August 1986), 11-26.

Wolf, Naomi: From The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women: NY: Doubleday, 1991. Pp 58-85

Keller, Jessalynn. “Feminist Editors and the New Girl Glossies: Fashionable Feminism or Just Another Sexist Rag?” Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011) I-12.

Rakow, Lana F. “Rethinking Gender Research in Communication,” Journal of Communication, 36, no. 4 (August 1986), 11-26.

Prough, Jennifer. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

Robbins, Trina. From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines. 1999. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.

 

Web Citations

 

Fantagraphics’ Heart of Thomas Release Information

Womanthology Sales

2012 Sailor Moon Sales via Diamond

2011 Sailor Moon Sales via Diamond

Amazon Comics Sales

New 52 Survey Results

Mainichi Newspaper survey results

Bryan Lee O’Malley Sailor Moon Fanart

Hope Larson Sailor Moon Fanart

Faith Erin Hicks Shoujo Influences

  

READ MORE »
NOVI MAG SUMMER BREAK

Greetings, NOVI readers. You might have noticed a bit of silence on our part. We haven’t forgotten you! We are taking the summer to regroup and restructure our content. Stay tuned for more essay comics, Fanart Fridays and articles at the end of August.

In case you were curious, this image is from the Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 1993.

NOVI MAG SUMMER BREAK



Greetings, NOVI readers. You might have noticed a bit of silence on our part. We haven’t forgotten you! We are taking the summer to regroup and restructure our content. Stay tuned for more essay comics, Fanart Fridays and articles at the end of August.



In case you were curious, this image is from the Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 1993.

READ MORE »





















References:The Guild: Fawkes
The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes
The Black Coat
Prophecy
Magdalena
Grimm’s Fairy Tales Presents The Library





















References:
The Guild: Fawkes

The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes

The Black Coat

Prophecy

Magdalena

Grimm’s Fairy Tales Presents The Library

READ MORE »
WHATS NEW HERE: DIRECT MARKET RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 13TH 


Comics are back! Or at least the Big 2 are doing well again. Figures released point to a $44.7 million Diamond haul, the biggest of any month since Febuary 2003. Half a year short of a full decade! The charge was lead by Marvel’s fight comic Avengers vs X-men, the third and the fourth issues of which moved 175,695 and 178,330 copies respectively.  The top 300 bestsellers list (numer 300 on the list, by comparison, moved around 5,000 copies, with the 300 comics combined being 7.3 million in number) forms something of a S&P 500 for “mainstream comics,” and this last month’s list beat May 2011’s by over 40 percent in both copies sold and sales revenue.  
A few observations from the release:
1.) Gay superheros sell comics. Hence, the New 52 debut of Earth 2 moves 86k copies at number eleven on the list. It’s even beating the Flash!
2.) The highest-ranking non-DC/Marvel issue in May was Walking Dead #98, just shy of 50k issues moved in the 38th position. It’s also the only black and white series on the charts.
3.) The highest selling debut of an original story is at number 48, with the first issue of Dial H by China “Oh, you read contemporary faux-lit fantasy novels? You’ve probably heard of me” Mieville. Dial H, which in any other circumstance would probably be a Vertigo branded title, has been promoted under the main “DC” branding. Yet Karen Berger, aka Tha Comix Game Rick Rubin, is editing it! Must be Illuminati. 
4.) 31,413 people pick up DC’s All Star Western.
5.) For those of you wondering, the Adventure Time comic is doing well at number 125 with 20,289 copies moved. That’s twice that of the Game of Thrones comic. There’s hope for our children yet.
New comics.

MASSIVE #1 by Kristian Donaldson, Brian Wood and Dave Stewart. Brian Wood’s new techno-thriller series at Dark Horse, which was previously being serialized in Dark Horse Presents, the spotty, uneven but usually adequately awesome monthly house anthology. This is the first issue in a three issue arch, of what is supposedly going to be a 30-issue series. But lookit that cover! It’s by Rafael Grampá. You know a comic is good when it has a cover by Rafael Grampá.

MIND THE GAP #2 by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, Francesco Francavilla and Sonia Oback. The solicited cover for this comic, which to me looks delightfully manga-esque, caught my eye when the first issue dropped last month. A girl is in a coma after being attacked in the subway, and she can’t remember her assailant. There’s a lesbian married couple in this comic!

SIEGFRIED VOL 1 by Alex Alice. Part one of three, as translated from the French. Cursorily research says that this book, a Métal Hurlant-meets-Flight adaptation of the The Ring of the Nibelung, is the result of a stalled animated film project. Alice won a Spectrum award for fantasy art in comics, which was presented to him by Mike Mignola. A fine pedigree.
KITCHEN PRINCESS OMNIBUS VOL 1 by Natsumi Ando,  Miyuki Kobayashi and assistants. I’ve never looked at or heard of this series before, but apparently it’s popular and well recieved enough to merit an “Omnibus” edition. I’m a huge sucker for the food-porn shojo genre, the queen of which is Fumi Yoshinaga. Not digging the art here, but I’m there for the cake recipes.
THE LOXLEYS AND THE WAR OF 1812 by Alan Grant and Jean-Claude St. Aubin. A straightforward bit of historical fiction about that one a bunch of us Americans got hella drunk and decided to invade Canada. I don’t even think we got in trouble for that one! Apparently some Canadians remembered it though, and so here’s this comic. From what I’ve seen of it, it looks well written. That dog on the cover better be awesome though. Everyone else seems to be upset with what is probably their house burning down behind them, but the dog stands regal and unfazed. It knows where it’s going.

PLANETOID #1  by  Ken Garing. Ahh, indie digital comics. The first issue of this new series was self-published on Graphicly before moving in with Image. The comic is an Orc Stain-style one man show, about a space marine surviving in an alien landscape. It’s a beaut to look at, and reviews of the self-published version of this point out its close kinship with the likes of Brandon Graham’s Prophet.
KISS #1 by Nick Runge, Jamal Igle, Chris Ryall, and Shawn Lee. The Seventies, but now, inexplicably  in the 1920s. Look at those hats they are wearing! I looked at the four page preview of this, and at one point a guy experiences a vision of the future, specifically a vision of a brain-melting Kiss concert, before he gets flung through a flaming pentagram into unkown, hellish dimensions. I don’t know the mythology of the band’s discography, apocrypha or other related ephemera, yet I can’t look away.
NEW YORK MON AMOUR by Jacques Tardi. Four short stories by the French Tardi set in New York City. The biggest thing about Tardi is his range, even within the confines of a single story. He can effortlessly move from silly, mannered humor to explosive, gruesome violence. Tarantino, if he had become a cartoonist, would have wished that he could be this guy.

WHATS NEW HERE: DIRECT MARKET RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 13TH



Comics are back! Or at least the Big 2 are doing well again. Figures released point to a $44.7 million Diamond haul, the biggest of any month since Febuary 2003. Half a year short of a full decade! The charge was lead by Marvel’s fight comic Avengers vs X-men, the third and the fourth issues of which moved 175,695 and 178,330 copies respectively.  The top 300 bestsellers list (numer 300 on the list, by comparison, moved around 5,000 copies, with the 300 comics combined being 7.3 million in number) forms something of a S&P 500 for “mainstream comics,” and this last month’s list beat May 2011’s by over 40 percent in both copies sold and sales revenue.  

A few observations from the release:

1.) Gay superheros sell comics. Hence, the New 52 debut of Earth 2 moves 86k copies at number eleven on the list. It’s even beating the Flash!

2.) The highest-ranking non-DC/Marvel issue in May was Walking Dead #98, just shy of 50k issues moved in the 38th position. It’s also the only black and white series on the charts.

3.) The highest selling debut of an original story is at number 48, with the first issue of Dial H by China “Oh, you read contemporary faux-lit fantasy novels? You’ve probably heard of me” Mieville. Dial H, which in any other circumstance would probably be a Vertigo branded title, has been promoted under the main “DC” branding. Yet Karen Berger, aka Tha Comix Game Rick Rubin, is editing it! Must be Illuminati. 

4.) 31,413 people pick up DC’s All Star Western.

5.) For those of you wondering, the Adventure Time comic is doing well at number 125 with 20,289 copies moved. That’s twice that of the Game of Thrones comic. There’s hope for our children yet.

New comics.


MASSIVE #1 by Kristian Donaldson, Brian Wood and Dave Stewart. Brian Wood’s new techno-thriller series at Dark Horse, which was previously being serialized in Dark Horse Presents, the spotty, uneven but usually adequately awesome monthly house anthology. This is the first issue in a three issue arch, of what is supposedly going to be a 30-issue series. But lookit that cover! It’s by Rafael Grampá. You know a comic is good when it has a cover by Rafael Grampá.


MIND THE GAP #2 by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, Francesco Francavilla and Sonia Oback. The solicited cover for this comic, which to me looks delightfully manga-esque, caught my eye when the first issue dropped last month. A girl is in a coma after being attacked in the subway, and she can’t remember her assailant. There’s a lesbian married couple in this comic!

SIEGFRIED VOL 1 by Alex Alice. Part one of three, as translated from the French. Cursorily research says that this book, a Métal Hurlant-meets-Flight adaptation of the The Ring of the Nibelung, is the result of a stalled animated film project. Alice won a Spectrum award for fantasy art in comics, which was presented to him by Mike Mignola. A fine pedigree.



KITCHEN PRINCESS OMNIBUS VOL 1 by Natsumi Ando,  Miyuki Kobayashi and assistants. I’ve never looked at or heard of this series before, but apparently it’s popular and well recieved enough to merit an “Omnibus” edition. I’m a huge sucker for the food-porn shojo genre, the queen of which is Fumi Yoshinaga. Not digging the art here, but I’m there for the cake recipes.



THE LOXLEYS AND THE WAR OF 1812 by Alan Grant and Jean-Claude St. Aubin. A straightforward bit of historical fiction about that one a bunch of us Americans got hella drunk and decided to invade Canada. I don’t even think we got in trouble for that one! Apparently some Canadians remembered it though, and so here’s this comic. From what I’ve seen of it, it looks well written. That dog on the cover better be awesome though. Everyone else seems to be upset with what is probably their house burning down behind them, but the dog stands regal and unfazed. It knows where it’s going.


PLANETOID #1  by  Ken Garing. Ahh, indie digital comics. The first issue of this new series was self-published on Graphicly before moving in with Image. The comic is an Orc Stain-style one man show, about a space marine surviving in an alien landscape. It’s a beaut to look at, and reviews of the self-published version of this point out its close kinship with the likes of Brandon Graham’s Prophet.



KISS #1 by Nick Runge, Jamal Igle, Chris Ryall, and Shawn Lee. The Seventies, but now, inexplicably  in the 1920s. Look at those hats they are wearing! I looked at the four page preview of this, and at one point a guy experiences a vision of the future, specifically a vision of a brain-melting Kiss concert, before he gets flung through a flaming pentagram into unkown, hellish dimensions. I don’t know the mythology of the band’s discography, apocrypha or other related ephemera, yet I can’t look away.



NEW YORK MON AMOUR by Jacques Tardi. Four short stories by the French Tardi set in New York City. The biggest thing about Tardi is his range, even within the confines of a single story. He can effortlessly move from silly, mannered humor to explosive, gruesome violence. Tarantino, if he had become a cartoonist, would have wished that he could be this guy.


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CONSUMPTION JUNCTION: CONNOR ON “DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND”



(This review was based on Dover Publications’ 1973 collection of “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend”.)

CONSUMPTION JUNCTION: CONNOR ON “DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND”

(This review was based on Dover Publications’ 1973 collection of “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend”.)

READ MORE »
THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN: AO ON MUDMAN #4Paul Grist, in early statements for the Mudman promotional cycle, promoted his new project as something more personal (and hopefully better selling) than his previous work on Jack Staff. Something that might approach autobiography. Well, if that was his intention, Grist isn’t very hurried to show it in the comic.The story so far in Mudman: A kid named Owen Craig mysteriously wakes up with the ability to turn into mud after being unsuccessfully shot at. He finds a costume in a huge abandoned waterfront mansion, puts it on, and declares himself Mudman. Owen lives with his older sister and police-officer father. His mother is noticeably absent. Owen easily gets distracted at school and runs around vandalizing local property with his friend at night. In Mudman #4, the weakest issue yet, he kinda fights a water-controlling supervillan, who’s really just some old guy without a shirt on. He’s basically the British small-coastal-town version of Peter Parker, if Peter Parker hadn’t had his Uncle Ben die out on him yet. The stakes aren’t very high, and the mystery of how the protagonist gets his powers doesn’t seem like one of Grist’s storytelling priorities. It’s paced like a glacier.
But I’m not giving it up quite yet. Mudman’s the only superhero series running right now that I can see myself picking up at the comic book shop.

First, let’s talk about why I started picking this series up— the art. Grist and his colorist Bill Crabtree have done wonders to separate Mudman from other superhero/Image comics on the shelf. Crabtree’s coloring, while digital, exists in muted flats, which in turn helps stress Grist’s serious economy of line. The background art is often stylized to the point of geometry; abstract fields of color and black. Grist has twenty years in comics and two critically acclaimed series under his belt, and you can feel that this is easy for him, feel it in every effortlessly blacked out shadow, feel it in the gorgeous lettering. In the forward to Mudman #4, Grist namedrops Jaime Hernandez as something of an inspiration. Both Grist and Hernandez have a highly developed sense, ground out through years of drawing stark but expressive black and white issues, of space and the pull of negative space.The white margins in Mudman are a thing to behold (only one page has appeared without them). They contain the art and lock in Grist’s blacks and Crabtree’s colors. The action pushes the white space of the page into panels—explosively for sequences of great violence of dynamism. Although much of the action so far in Mudman takes place during the nighttime, the white negative gutter space is so pervasive throughout that the comic reads lighter, airily, breathing.The same, however, could be said of the plot. The personal nature of the book is difficult to spot, past the occasional nods towards other classic superhero comics that read clearly as a love letter to the genre. But even those are taken without any metafictional irony—a character in #4 seeking out Owen for his mud-based powers teases the kid for wearing his Mudman costume under a Superman hoodie. But that character only confronts Owen about this after a six-page long daydream of Owen getting to strip off his hoodie to save an attractive classmate from a bus collision. The narrative, supported by extraordinary cartooning competence, is knowingly referential and asks to be taken in complete sincerity.It was at that point when I really tried to dig deeper into what Grist was trying to encode into this borderline-hackneyed (but never crossing) narrative. Superhero comics were always speculative fantasies of secret, peculiar agency.  What’s the agency here? The divine spark doesn’t hit an urban arachnid; Mudman #1’s opening bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk hits something even lower than an insect: the quicksand-like lowtide silt of the small fictional English seatown of Burnbridge on Sea.“Burnbridge on Sea” (amalgam of Highbridge, where Grist grew up, and the nearby Burnham-On-Sea, also, an isolating holocaust) is most probably a terrible place to live. I have a friend who grew up in one of these touristy beach areas, and she’s quick to testify that if you can’t manage to get the fuck out, you have nothing to do other than watch all your friends make the escape. Grist explains in a USA Today interview, linked above in the first paragraph:

"When the tide’s out, it exposes vast areas of mud. Whenever visitors come to the area, there’s always someone who drives onto what looks like a solid-looking wet beach only to find their vehicle sinking into the mud, or who gets caught in the mud trying to reach the sea. So in trying to come up with a novel power for a local superhero, mud seemed like an obvious choice."

The key word there is local. From where I’m standing, I think Mudman is really about being tied to somewhere, of being from somewhere that, when the phone rings and ill orbits align, one is forced to return. Oh, and of course, the people who live there: your family. Remember that one exception to the white gutters omnipresent reach? It’s 12 pages into #1:
It’s everywhere: in the tiling of the floor, the ceiling, the walls, the counters that surround the family. They are soaked in it, surrounded by the artist’s ink. This is where the focus is. The dynamics: a father inspecting his son’s Joycean, Freudian, Lynchian ear, mirrored from an absent mother not interacting with her daughter.Now, none of the setup I’ve just pointed out has yet been acted upon. Grist undoubtedly is keeping a very tight grip on his pacing for Mudman (which Image is not billing as a miniseries, which means Grist will be locked in for the slow burn). I believe in future issues, as we get the deliberate story beats where Owen further discovers and uses his powers as a superhero out of the way, the focus of the comic will start turning to Owen’s family members and other inhabitants of Burnbridge on Sea. Grist has proven in Mudman #2, where the majority of the issue focuses on two bit-rate bank robbers passing through the town, that he and Image are OK with having the title character not appear for much of the issue. From what’s set up already, the scope of this comic is about to significantly widen.Suprisingly, the more I think about this comic, the more reminded I am of Kate Beaton’s current Cape Breton project. The project is an attempt from Beaton, who holds both History and Anthropology university degrees, to return and become a storyteller about her family and childhood in her small island hometown. Comics linked to the project have her interacting with the townsfolk and local color, interspersed with her own memories of the island. Beaton, however, is working from the outside back in: her project is infinitely more naturalist and direct than Grist’s.I think that Grist was initially going to do the same thing. The original character design for Mudman, included in the backmatter of Mudman #1, shows a guy much older than Owen, maybe in his late twenties at the youngest. Maybe that Mudman would be someone visiting his family back in his hometown, brought back due to the death of his mother or something. 

See? Exact same Charlie Brown (pun intended *dodges mud*) costume, but look at that face. Makes you wonder how many bridges get burned in the course of Old Owen’s life, or what ones young Owen have yet to build or ignite. The Owen in Mudman, unlike Beaton’s self-character in her strips, doesn’t yet pay adult, engaged attention to those around him, and generally just wants to be left alone. Grist writes him as a 21st-century wide-eyed consumer who often speaks in pop culture references—the abandoned mansion where the key to Owen’s powers may be hidden is called  “the Scooby-Doo House,” the attic where Owen finds his costume is deemed “a Batcave.” The dude’s Dad is a cop, and without irony or thought of this he puts on a costume and fights crime! His working vocabulary includes both Star Trek and Star Wars references! Grist is taking, with utmost seriousness and sincerity, the super-ambitious route of attempting something like Beaton’s auto/biography of family and environs from the maturity and self-awareness level of Mudman’s teenage protagonist. The only other comic (of high enough profile that I’ve heard of at least) to attempt something similarly hyper-subjective is Rusty Brown, Chris Ware’s presently serializing magnum opus on his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Regardless, Ware, Beaton and Grist have just started to tuck into these monolithic projects, so we’ll see who can deliver and who will fall off. I have supreme confidence in all of them. I’m gonna keep reading this series, and hopefully I’m not setting myself up for major disappointment!


Ao Meng is the Editor-in-Cheif of Novi Magazine. This post was edited by Managing Editor C. Calabrese.

THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN: AO ON MUDMAN #4

Paul Grist, in early statements for the Mudman promotional cycle, promoted his new project as something more personal (and hopefully better selling) than his previous work on Jack Staff. Something that might approach autobiography. Well, if that was his intention, Grist isn’t very hurried to show it in the comic.

The story so far in Mudman: A kid named Owen Craig mysteriously wakes up with the ability to turn into mud after being unsuccessfully shot at. He finds a costume in a huge abandoned waterfront mansion, puts it on, and declares himself Mudman. Owen lives with his older sister and police-officer father. His mother is noticeably absent. Owen easily gets distracted at school and runs around vandalizing local property with his friend at night. In Mudman #4, the weakest issue yet, he kinda fights a water-controlling supervillan, who’s really just some old guy without a shirt on. He’s basically the British small-coastal-town version of Peter Parker, if Peter Parker hadn’t had his Uncle Ben die out on him yet. The stakes aren’t very high, and the mystery of how the protagonist gets his powers doesn’t seem like one of Grist’s storytelling priorities. It’s paced like a glacier.


But I’m not giving it up quite yet. Mudman’s the only superhero series running right now that I can see myself picking up at the comic book shop.


First, let’s talk about why I started picking this series up— the art. Grist and his colorist Bill Crabtree have done wonders to separate Mudman from other superhero/Image comics on the shelf. Crabtree’s coloring, while digital, exists in muted flats, which in turn helps stress Grist’s serious economy of line. The background art is often stylized to the point of geometry; abstract fields of color and black. Grist has twenty years in comics and two critically acclaimed series under his belt, and you can feel that this is easy for him, feel it in every effortlessly blacked out shadow, feel it in the gorgeous lettering. In the forward to Mudman #4, Grist namedrops Jaime Hernandez as something of an inspiration. Both Grist and Hernandez have a highly developed sense, ground out through years of drawing stark but expressive black and white issues, of space and the pull of negative space.



The white margins in Mudman are a thing to behold (only one page has appeared without them). They contain the art and lock in Grist’s blacks and Crabtree’s colors. The action pushes the white space of the page into panels—explosively for sequences of great violence of dynamism. Although much of the action so far in Mudman takes place during the nighttime, the white negative gutter space is so pervasive throughout that the comic reads lighter, airily, breathing.



The same, however, could be said of the plot. The personal nature of the book is difficult to spot, past the occasional nods towards other classic superhero comics that read clearly as a love letter to the genre. But even those are taken without any metafictional irony—a character in #4 seeking out Owen for his mud-based powers teases the kid for wearing his Mudman costume under a Superman hoodie. But that character only confronts Owen about this after a six-page long daydream of Owen getting to strip off his hoodie to save an attractive classmate from a bus collision. The narrative, supported by extraordinary cartooning competence, is knowingly referential and asks to be taken in complete sincerity.

It was at that point when I really tried to dig deeper into what Grist was trying to encode into this borderline-hackneyed (but never crossing) narrative. Superhero comics were always speculative fantasies of secret, peculiar agency.  What’s the agency here? The divine spark doesn’t hit an urban arachnid; Mudman #1’s opening bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk hits something even lower than an insect: the quicksand-like lowtide silt of the small fictional English seatown of Burnbridge on Sea.



“Burnbridge on Sea” (amalgam of Highbridge, where Grist grew up, and the nearby Burnham-On-Sea, also, an isolating holocaust) is most probably a terrible place to live. I have a friend who grew up in one of these touristy beach areas, and she’s quick to testify that if you can’t manage to get the fuck out, you have nothing to do other than watch all your friends make the escape. Grist explains in a USA Today interview, linked above in the first paragraph:

"When the tide’s out, it exposes vast areas of mud. Whenever visitors come to the area, there’s always someone who drives onto what looks like a solid-looking wet beach only to find their vehicle sinking into the mud, or who gets caught in the mud trying to reach the sea. So in trying to come up with a novel power for a local superhero, mud seemed like an obvious choice."


The key word there is local. From where I’m standing, I think Mudman is really about being tied to somewhere, of being from somewhere that, when the phone rings and ill orbits align, one is forced to return. Oh, and of course, the people who live there: your family. Remember that one exception to the white gutters omnipresent reach? It’s 12 pages into #1:

It’s everywhere: in the tiling of the floor, the ceiling, the walls, the counters that surround the family. They are soaked in it, surrounded by the artist’s ink. This is where the focus is. The dynamics: a father inspecting his son’s Joycean, Freudian, Lynchian ear, mirrored from an absent mother not interacting with her daughter.

Now, none of the setup I’ve just pointed out has yet been acted upon. Grist undoubtedly is keeping a very tight grip on his pacing for Mudman (which Image is not billing as a miniseries, which means Grist will be locked in for the slow burn). I believe in future issues, as we get the deliberate story beats where Owen further discovers and uses his powers as a superhero out of the way, the focus of the comic will start turning to Owen’s family members and other inhabitants of Burnbridge on Sea. Grist has proven in Mudman #2, where the majority of the issue focuses on two bit-rate bank robbers passing through the town, that he and Image are OK with having the title character not appear for much of the issue. From what’s set up already, the scope of this comic is about to significantly widen.

Suprisingly, the more I think about this comic, the more reminded I am of Kate Beaton’s current Cape Breton project. The project is an attempt from Beaton, who holds both History and Anthropology university degrees, to return and become a storyteller about her family and childhood in her small island hometown. Comics linked to the project have her interacting with the townsfolk and local color, interspersed with her own memories of the island. Beaton, however, is working from the outside back in: her project is infinitely more naturalist and direct than Grist’s.

I think that Grist was initially going to do the same thing. The original character design for Mudman, included in the backmatter of Mudman #1, shows a guy much older than Owen, maybe in his late twenties at the youngest. Maybe that Mudman would be someone visiting his family back in his hometown, brought back due to the death of his mother or something.


See? Exact same Charlie Brown (pun intended *dodges mud*) costume, but look at that face. Makes you wonder how many bridges get burned in the course of Old Owen’s life, or what ones young Owen have yet to build or ignite. The Owen in Mudman, unlike Beaton’s self-character in her strips, doesn’t yet pay adult, engaged attention to those around him, and generally just wants to be left alone. Grist writes him as a 21st-century wide-eyed consumer who often speaks in pop culture references—the abandoned mansion where the key to Owen’s powers may be hidden is called  “the Scooby-Doo House,” the attic where Owen finds his costume is deemed “a Batcave.” The dude’s Dad is a cop, and without irony or thought of this he puts on a costume and fights crime! His working vocabulary includes both Star Trek and Star Wars references!

Grist is taking, with utmost seriousness and sincerity, the super-ambitious route of attempting something like Beaton’s auto/biography of family and environs from the maturity and self-awareness level of Mudman’s teenage protagonist. The only other comic (of high enough profile that I’ve heard of at least) to attempt something similarly hyper-subjective is Rusty Brown, Chris Ware’s presently serializing magnum opus on his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

Regardless, Ware, Beaton and Grist have just started to tuck into these monolithic projects, so we’ll see who can deliver and who will fall off. I have supreme confidence in all of them. I’m gonna keep reading this series, and hopefully I’m not setting myself up for major disappointment!


Ao Meng is the Editor-in-Cheif of Novi Magazine. This post was edited by Managing Editor C. Calabrese.

READ MORE »
KACHI’S FANART FRIDAY: THE HULK!
If Marvel’s The Hulk is ever brought up in conversation, most people think of a sniveling, powerless scientist and his green, vapid, bruiser alter-ego. However, it’s safe to say that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner was the fan favorite of the third-highest grossing movie of all time. And with the territory fan-favoritism comes lots of - wait for it -fanart. Yes. Let’s do this.
"Assemble" by Scott C.
—
"Hulk" by Ken Taylor for Mondo
—
"I Am Always Angry" by Splittingadams
—
"Hulk and Hawkeye" by dogsup
—
"Hulk’s Day Off" by Matt Kaufenberg
—
"Bruce Banner" by 2013
—

“You know that’s not going to work, right?”
“Yeah, but sometimes it just feels good to hold it.”
by Astro
—
"Hulk Likes Shawarma" by Lar DeSouza

KACHI’S FANART FRIDAY: THE HULK!

If Marvel’s The Hulk is ever brought up in conversation, most people think of a sniveling, powerless scientist and his green, vapid, bruiser alter-ego. However, it’s safe to say that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner was the fan favorite of the third-highest grossing movie of all time. And with the territory fan-favoritism comes lots of - wait for it -fanart. Yes. Let’s do this.



"Assemble" by Scott C.


"Hulk" by Ken Taylor for Mondo


"I Am Always Angry" by Splittingadams


"Hulk and Hawkeye" by dogsup


"Hulk’s Day Off" by Matt Kaufenberg


"Bruce Banner" by 2013

“You know that’s not going to work, right?”

“Yeah, but sometimes it just feels good to hold it.”

by Astro


"Hulk Likes Shawarma" by Lar DeSouza

READ MORE »
CONSUMPTION JUNCTION: V’s FIELD GUIDE TO MOOMIN BY TOVE JANSSON

CONSUMPTION JUNCTION: V’s FIELD GUIDE TO MOOMIN BY TOVE JANSSON

















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WHAT’S NEW HERE: DIRECT MARKET RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 6THI chilled with my family this last weekend for some beach-side barbecue, as per Texas tradition during the summer months. I got to wake up to sand and ocean spray, having slept past noon in luxury. That’s my excuse for not being up-to-date with my comics news to offer commentary upon, and I’m sticking to it. My mom sporadically reads my columns on this site, and took the chance grill-side, in what was either a show of support for my choice of comics as my professional lane, a motherly worry about diving into an unstable, historically exploitative industry painstakingly hand-built by creative folk, men and women traditionally of alternative lifestyles and crushing poverty, or both, to offer advice about how to increase the readership and accessibility of the site, and by extension, the popular audience of comics in general.  Her read of the whole post-Obama-endorsement gay marriage barrage I wrote on last week wasn’t quite as cynical as mine, but she framed the initiative from an interesting angle: that of an old-school synergistic media push, a timely tie-in to a “thing that is happening” (her words, and an inability on my end to grasp at better ones) that is already taking up “mind share" with the target audience. I’m talking Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pinball machines, Titanic: the Movie: the Novelization, that new Darwyn Cooke miniseries out this week, etc. People who are “brand aware” of the, uhh, “topic” considered would undoubtedly find it easier, with enough competent cross-promotion, to muster up rare liquidable attention, medium be damned.I responded reflexively with some sophomoric hogwash about how licensed property work is wholly commonplace within the medium, and that such work was the acme of selling out. But after only a few moments of reflection, I realized two things: first of all, how is doing creative work with ethically licensed (Stan and Jim can leeap into a fire, really, do it, please) properties selling out? Nobody gives David Yates shit about the Harry Potter movies. The argument about losing months during an cartoonist’s creative prime to “other people’s ideas” is another popular one, as if adaptations, brand extensions or even straight translations allowed no room for personal artistic connection with the material. Yates is actually a great example of this creative ownership in film: in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1  he realized a sequence when the main characters are attacked in a house with aesthetics lifted out of post-War-on-Terrorism-era crime thrillers, using cinematic vocabularies like cold lighting and sound design to turn a magical assault into a drive-by shooting. The second thing I realized is that yes, there’s a lot of licensed work on the market, but how much of it is good? It’s about the same as it ever was, but where are our Carl Barks? Well, Barks is an extreme example, but is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to picture Ryan North’s work on the Adventure Time comic growing as high, or higher in critical and popular tendency as his work with Quantz? It’s almost as if the stars have to align before we hear about a “surprisingly” good licensed comic. This is a cynicism brought about by corporate laziness. But where are the creators in all of this?  It can be done well, of course, with the right marriage (and it would be a marriage, as a cartooning work is a long term relationship. Just ask any “graphic novelist” if the sex is still good. Miyazaki is believed to have said while working on the Nausicaa comic: “I just tried to keep her happy”) of cartoonist and property. A prime example: James Stokoe is about to body Godzilla pretty hard. Show one Godzilla fan this page:
And I can guarantee everyone goes home happy that evening. Why isn’t the quality of this product higher? Why the shit is the Twilight comic so ass-terrible? Again, I think the only explanation would be lazy licencers. You don’t have to screw things up: if you commission crap from the lowest bidder or from the wrong cartoonist, you are going to destroy the consumer’s trust in your brand and drive the consumer away from ever coming back to your products, or heaven fucking forbid, the entire comics medium. If you think the consumer won’t be able to distinguish second rate product as he or she consumes it, and you knowingly release, market and promote product you do not believe in, then you should leave the business, because you are inhuman scum and you should have left long ago. But if you do the slightest bit of homework, and produce something actually worth the money consumers would spend, then you grow your audience, you make the brand truly more valuable and everyone still gets to feel good about their lives afterwords. Then, if the readers was raised right and hasn’t had their innate curiosity, o that burning torch of neighborly love, true engagement with the world, and civilization, snuffed out, they might look at other comics the cartoonist may have done, and through self-driven discovery have the wealth of comics, the art where human hands first joined the temporal and the spacial aesthetic realms of all the other arts, lain before them. It’s not hard! Put Faith Erin Hicks on the Hunger Games already. Get Ben Marra that Drive money. All it takes is a little effort! New comics.
STAR WARS OMNIBUS: DROIDS AND EWOKS by David Manak, George Caragonne, Warren Kremer, Ernie Colon, John Romita, Mary Wilshire, Jon D’Agostino, Carlos Garzon, Jacqueline Roettcher, Marie Severin, Joe Sinnott, Al Williamson,Marie Severin, and George Roussos. Licensed comics! Dunno if they are any good though. Originally published through Marvel, Dark Horse has restored the colors in this to pristine 80’s perfection. I think I need to ask somebody older about this. Look how strangely C3PO’s head is drawn! Was the coke that great back then?
PRINCE VALIANT VOL 05: 1945-1946 by Hal Foster. The giant Fantagraphics reprints of this insanely influential strip continues. I’ve been told that this strip, which absolutely nobody really knows the continuity of, has been grinding at the same storyline since it’s inception. Foster’s pitch of the Arthurian strip to King Features, Wikipedia tells me, impressed William Randolph Hearst so much that he gave the cartoonist total ownership of the strip. Shows you how far we’ve come. 
DIAL H #2 by China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco, Tany Horie, Richard Horie, Steve Wands and Brian Bolland. A manchild finds a telephone booth that turns him into various superheroes, but it’s written like a Charlie Kaufman movie. I missed the first issue of this, but reviewers have talked this book up for me, so I’m willing to take a gander. I’m wary of novelists doing one-off comics series, but I think Mieville, a solid fantasy writer, is at least doing it sincerely. 

MUDMAN #4 by Paul Grist and Bill Crabtree. Now this series is interesting because it’s a no-bones, no-frills superhero comic. No winks, no meta shit, just well executed comics about a kid who turns into mud, and that’s his power, and he fights crime. Somehow, this still feels like an indie comic, probably because it reads like the cartoonist is having fun drawing it. Simple and clean.

ED THE HAPPY CLOWN by Chester Brown. Drawn and Quarterly drops an eagerly-awaited hardback of Brown’s breakthrough hit. Those of us familiar only with Brown’s more recent autobio work are probably seeing this rougher, super-surreal stuff for the first time. But as one of the first post-underground Canadian works, it’s stupid important. Time Magazine, of Watchmen-on-the-same-list-as-Ulysses fame, called it the number 7 best English-language graphic novel to date. The main character’s penis gets replaced with the head of a gay alternate-reality Ronald Reagan! Alternative comics! This is the first time all the Ed material has been collected since 1992. 
KOMA by Pierre Wazem, Frederik Peeters and Albertine Ralenti. I know nothing about this book, other than that it’s got the Humanoids stamp of quality and the art looks amazing. Lookit them colors! The creators (who are Swiss) are described in the promotional copy as “prolific,” but this seems to be the first work of theirs released in English. The protagonist of this one is a girl named Addidas, who befriends a monster to solve mysteries in a dystopic industrial city. Adorable. 
 PARIS by Maarten Vande Wiele, Erika Raven and Peter Moerenhout. Drawn by Vande Wiele, this collects two albums called I Love Paris and I Hate Paris, scripted by Raven and Moerenhout respectively. Wiele’s style put me off at first, but my interest was piqued when the promotional copy proclaimed it as a “trash graphic novel.” I took a look at some reviews of the Belgian version of the books; turns out that Paris tells the story of three women, Gothically named Hope, Faith and Charity, trying to “make it” in the city of lights, in the same way that protagonist of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine tries to make it two chapters without getting raped. The Paris in this book isn’t a romantic city, it’s the Libertine hellhole of “Niggas in Paris,” filled with scrupleless parasites and coked-out sex parties. The comic is filled with reviling characters, including one that surgically reconstructs her virginity so that she can sell it on eBay, wearing insanely expensive high fashion, with every couture piece annotated at the bottom of the page, in case you want to know if that jacket’s Margiela. “Niggas in Paris” wasn’t 216 pages long though. 

METRO: A STORY OF CAIRO by Magdy El Shafee. Metropolitan Books, the same people who put out Footnotes in Gaza last year, here presents the English translation of this comic, which pre-Revolution Egypt banned in a high-profile court case in 2008. The story follows a twenty-something that is sick of the widespread corruption from the foreign-backed government, and decides, fuck it, I’m robbing a bank. Ahh, that’s all of us, isn’t it? I’m certain that the content here is very worth your time, except that the art in this is the very definition of “not in vogue.” I think a lot of this is going to be the presentation; wait for your local library to pick this up.


WHAT’S NEW HERE: DIRECT MARKET RELEASES FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 6TH


I chilled with my family this last weekend for some beach-side barbecue, as per Texas tradition during the summer months. I got to wake up to sand and ocean spray, having slept past noon in luxury. That’s my excuse for not being up-to-date with my comics news to offer commentary upon, and I’m sticking to it. My mom sporadically reads my columns on this site, and took the chance grill-side, in what was either a show of support for my choice of comics as my professional lane, a motherly worry about diving into an unstable, historically exploitative industry painstakingly hand-built by creative folk, men and women traditionally of alternative lifestyles and crushing poverty, or both, to offer advice about how to increase the readership and accessibility of the site, and by extension, the popular audience of comics in general.  

Her read of the whole post-Obama-endorsement gay marriage barrage I wrote on last week wasn’t quite as cynical as mine, but she framed the initiative from an interesting angle: that of an old-school synergistic media push, a timely tie-in to a “thing that is happening” (her words, and an inability on my end to grasp at better ones) that is already taking up “mind share" with the target audience. I’m talking Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pinball machines, Titanic: the Movie: the Novelization, that new Darwyn Cooke miniseries out this week, etc. People who are “brand aware” of the, uhh, “topic” considered would undoubtedly find it easier, with enough competent cross-promotion, to muster up rare liquidable attention, medium be damned.

I responded reflexively with some sophomoric hogwash about how licensed property work is wholly commonplace within the medium, and that such work was the acme of selling out. But after only a few moments of reflection, I realized two things: first of all, how is doing creative work with ethically licensed (Stan and Jim can leeap into a fire, really, do it, please) properties selling out? Nobody gives David Yates shit about the Harry Potter movies. The argument about losing months during an cartoonist’s creative prime to “other people’s ideas” is another popular one, as if adaptations, brand extensions or even straight translations allowed no room for personal artistic connection with the material. Yates is actually a great example of this creative ownership in film: in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1  he realized a sequence when the main characters are attacked in a house with aesthetics lifted out of post-War-on-Terrorism-era crime thrillers, using cinematic vocabularies like cold lighting and sound design to turn a magical assault into a drive-by shooting.

The second thing I realized is that yes, there’s a lot of licensed work on the market, but how much of it is good? It’s about the same as it ever was, but where are our Carl Barks? Well, Barks is an extreme example, but is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to picture Ryan North’s work on the Adventure Time comic growing as high, or higher in critical and popular tendency as his work with Quantz? It’s almost as if the stars have to align before we hear about a “surprisingly” good licensed comic. This is a cynicism brought about by corporate laziness. But where are the creators in all of this?  It can be done well, of course, with the right marriage (and it would be a marriage, as a cartooning work is a long term relationship. Just ask any “graphic novelist” if the sex is still good. Miyazaki is believed to have said while working on the Nausicaa comic: “I just tried to keep her happy”) of cartoonist and property. A prime example: James Stokoe is about to body Godzilla pretty hard. Show one Godzilla fan this page:



And I can guarantee everyone goes home happy that evening. Why isn’t the quality of this product higher? Why the shit is the Twilight comic so ass-terrible? Again, I think the only explanation would be lazy licencers.

You don’t have to screw things up: if you commission crap from the lowest bidder or from the wrong cartoonist, you are going to destroy the consumer’s trust in your brand and drive the consumer away from ever coming back to your products, or heaven fucking forbid, the entire comics medium. If you think the consumer won’t be able to distinguish second rate product as he or she consumes it, and you knowingly release, market and promote product you do not believe in, then you should leave the business, because you are inhuman scum and you should have left long ago.

But if you do the slightest bit of homework, and produce something actually worth the money consumers would spend, then you grow your audience, you make the brand truly more valuable and everyone still gets to feel good about their lives afterwords. Then, if the readers was raised right and hasn’t had their innate curiosity, o that burning torch of neighborly love, true engagement with the world, and civilization, snuffed out, they might look at other comics the cartoonist may have done, and through self-driven discovery have the wealth of comics, the art where human hands first joined the temporal and the spacial aesthetic realms of all the other arts, lain before them. It’s not hard! Put Faith Erin Hicks on the Hunger Games already. Get Ben Marra that Drive money.

All it takes is a little effort! New comics.



STAR WARS OMNIBUS: DROIDS AND EWOKS by David Manak, George Caragonne, Warren Kremer, Ernie Colon, John Romita, Mary Wilshire, Jon D’Agostino, Carlos Garzon, Jacqueline Roettcher, Marie Severin, Joe Sinnott, Al Williamson,Marie Severin, and George Roussos. Licensed comics! Dunno if they are any good though. Originally published through Marvel, Dark Horse has restored the colors in this to pristine 80’s perfection. I think I need to ask somebody older about this. Look how strangely C3PO’s head is drawn! Was the coke that great back then?



PRINCE VALIANT VOL 05: 1945-1946 by Hal Foster. The giant Fantagraphics reprints of this insanely influential strip continues. I’ve been told that this strip, which absolutely nobody really knows the continuity of, has been grinding at the same storyline since it’s inception. Foster’s pitch of the Arthurian strip to King Features, Wikipedia tells me, impressed William Randolph Hearst so much that he gave the cartoonist total ownership of the strip. Shows you how far we’ve come.



DIAL H #2 by China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco, Tany Horie, Richard Horie,
Steve Wands and Brian Bolland. A manchild finds a telephone booth that turns him into various superheroes, but it’s written like a Charlie Kaufman movie. I missed the first issue of this, but reviewers have talked this book up for me, so I’m willing to take a gander. I’m wary of novelists doing one-off comics series, but I think Mieville, a solid fantasy writer, is at least doing it sincerely.


MUDMAN #4 by Paul Grist and Bill Crabtree. Now this series is interesting because it’s a no-bones, no-frills superhero comic. No winks, no meta shit, just well executed comics about a kid who turns into mud, and that’s his power, and he fights crime. Somehow, this still feels like an indie comic, probably because it reads like the cartoonist is having fun drawing it. Simple and clean.



ED THE HAPPY CLOWN by Chester Brown. Drawn and Quarterly drops an eagerly-awaited hardback of Brown’s breakthrough hit. Those of us familiar only with Brown’s more recent autobio work are probably seeing this rougher, super-surreal stuff for the first time. But as one of the first post-underground Canadian works, it’s stupid important. Time Magazine, of Watchmen-on-the-same-list-as-Ulysses fame, called it the number 7 best English-language graphic novel to date. The main character’s penis gets replaced with the head of a gay alternate-reality Ronald Reagan! Alternative comics! This is the first time all the Ed material has been collected since 1992.



KOMA by Pierre Wazem, Frederik Peeters and Albertine Ralenti. I know nothing about this book, other than that it’s got the Humanoids stamp of quality and the art looks amazing. Lookit them colors! The creators (who are Swiss) are described in the promotional copy as “prolific,” but this seems to be the first work of theirs released in English. The protagonist of this one is a girl named Addidas, who befriends a monster to solve mysteries in a dystopic industrial city. Adorable.

 

PARIS by Maarten Vande Wiele, Erika Raven and Peter Moerenhout. Drawn by Vande Wiele, this collects two albums called I Love Paris and I Hate Paris, scripted by Raven and Moerenhout respectively. Wiele’s style put me off at first, but my interest was piqued when the promotional copy proclaimed it as a “trash graphic novel.” I took a look at some reviews of the Belgian version of the books; turns out that Paris tells the story of three women, Gothically named Hope, Faith and Charity, trying to “make it” in the city of lights, in the same way that protagonist of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine tries to make it two chapters without getting raped. The Paris in this book isn’t a romantic city, it’s the Libertine hellhole of “Niggas in Paris,” filled with scrupleless parasites and coked-out sex parties. The comic is filled with reviling characters, including one that surgically reconstructs her virginity so that she can sell it on eBay, wearing insanely expensive high fashion, with every couture piece annotated at the bottom of the page, in case you want to know if that jacket’s Margiela. “Niggas in Paris” wasn’t 216 pages long though.


METRO: A STORY OF CAIRO by Magdy El Shafee. Metropolitan Books, the same people who put out Footnotes in Gaza last year, here presents the English translation of this comic, which pre-Revolution Egypt banned in a high-profile court case in 2008. The story follows a twenty-something that is sick of the widespread corruption from the foreign-backed government, and decides, fuck it, I’m robbing a bank. Ahh, that’s all of us, isn’t it? I’m certain that the content here is very worth your time, except that the art in this is the very definition of “not in vogue.” I think a lot of this is going to be the presentation; wait for your local library to pick this up.